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Dr. Stephen Hayes, the founder of the groundbreaking therapy technique Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), says, “If you’re not willing to have it, then you will.” Have what, you might ask? Anything you are trying to get rid of, from anxiety and depression to fear and loss. So what if the key to overcoming your anxiety was to welcome your anxiety in with arms wide open? You might think to yourself, “I’m willing to do that if embracing anxiety will eventually help me get rid of it!” But if that is why you’re doing it, you will continue to be anxious. Tony shares his thoughts on one of the most important yet paradoxical parts of ACT, “Acceptance and Willingness,” from Dr. Hayes's book “Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life,” https://amzn.to/421Qssr

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Transcript

So I recently found myself on a run and I was, I was cold. I was freezing and my wife was under the weather. We typically ran together on Saturday mornings back in my active ultra running days. I would spend a few hours early, really early on a Saturday morning, trying to get all my miles in, but now a couple, two or three years post meniscus tear, I'm giddy to be able to just bust out, I don't know, 8, 10, 12 miles for my long run on a Saturday, and especially when I can go with my wife, but on this particular day, she was not feeling up to it. And to be honest, I kind of wasn't feeling it either. So it doesn't surprise me that I neglected to check the weather before I headed out. And it was cold and it was windy and I was a few miles away from home and I hadn't really thought out my route. So instead of finishing with a strong wind against my back, I had opted for that strong wind to carry me as far away from my house as possible, which at this point only meant about three or four miles. 

But that absolutely meant that the run home was not going to be easy. It's one of the things that I'm truly grateful for as a mental health provider is continually trying to learn about things that I think can help my clients. And I have now been practicing long enough to know that if I'm being honest, everything, I find myself embracing and putting into my practice. I embrace and put into my practice because it truly resonates with me. And I've accepted the fact that I think kind of long ago that, yeah, in fact, I did become a therapist many, many years ago, apparently to deal with my own issues. So I found myself thinking about a phrase that I often say that I don't think people find as powerful as maybe I do. And I also realize thank you, therapy. That is an observation that I make. When I say this phrase people don't leap off my couch and say, oh, my gosh. That's the one. That's it. You, you did it. You just changed my life with that one phrase. If that is not what I observe, then I quickly make a judgment I make at that very moment. To maybe ease my own anxiety or to make sense of that moment for me is that person on my couch just really couldn't give two rips about this life-changing phrase that I'm actually about to share with you. And that phrase is coming up next on the Virtual Couch

Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode 365 of the Virtual Couch. I am your host, Tony Overbay, I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and it actually hit me today that if you truly wanted to lose your mind, you can now listen to an episode of the Virtual Couch each and every day for an entire year. And I will just let that sit there and I will actually let you observe and judge. Some of those judgements may include, is he serious? What an ego. Is he saying that people would really do that and I really am not, but I feel like I'm almost required, I don't know by the podcast gods, to say that I never honestly would have imagined in a million years when I started the podcast that I would have 365 episodes, not to mention that Waking Up to Narcissism, my other podcast is now on episode 60 something. And on that note actually just released a third podcast and that is Waking Up to Narcissism premium edition question and answer, that's over on the apple podcast app and episode one of that is now available. I have a Google document that has more questions about narcissism and emotional immaturity and what to do about it and how to live with it and why does it happen and who does it happen to and all of those questions. It's $4.99 a month and hopefully it will raise money that we'll be able to fund a nonprofit that has been set up to help people that are in these difficult relationships with truly narcissistic people or extremely emotionally immature people that are definitely opting for control over love. 

And while I'm talking about podcasts, I really do appreciate when somebody gets pretty real about the behind the scenes things, the numbers, or the reach of a particular podcast. And I just have to comment on the fact that while the Virtual Couch has 300 more episodes than Waking Up to Narcissism, and it is a given that I never anticipated that the Virtual Couch would have the reach that it does, Waking Up to Narcissism just this morning crossed over more average daily downloads than the Virtual Couch. So the Virtual Couch has a few million more downloads overall, but each now Waking Up to Narcissism episode is starting to approach and show more downloads per episode, which again, sharing numbers that I think is fun, it could be around 15 to 20,000 per episode, depending on the episode. So I just feel like that's mind blowing that that podcast really does resonate, but I think it's definitely a, if, you know, you know, so people that are in those relationships with emotionally immature individuals and it doesn't just have to be a spouse, we are interacting with emotionally immature or people with narcissistic traits and tendencies on a daily basis. So that could even be somebody in the workplace, a neighbor, it could even be an institution or an entity that you are working with, it can be an adult child, or it can be a sibling, an adult sibling. So there's just a lot of information there that I feel I can help people just stay more present, know that they're okay. 

Know that it is 100% and that's an all or nothing statement that I stand behind for you to have your own thoughts and feelings and emotions. And you are not crazy for having them. And if you are in a relationship where those are continually being challenged or you are made to feel less than, then I really would recommend that you check that podcast out. Just check out the show notes and click on there's a link tree link, and it will give you access to the newsletter, the latest podcast episodes, the trailer for Murder On the Couch, the upcoming true crime meets psychology with my daughter Sydney. And I think it will also link to the Virtual Couch accounts on TikTok and Instagram and Facebook and the Magnetic Marriage workshop, which is a 90 minute workshop. And the updated full marriage course is going to be released shortly and I'll make a lot of noise when that is ready. So, where were we? 

That phrase, the phrase that I was alluding to. Let me in almost like a true reality show TV format, where we ended the scene, let me come back to the show and I will set the stage. I'll read the last sentence or two from the transcript, and this is where we left off. When people do not leap off of my couch after I say this phrase, and when they do not say that's the, there it is, that's it. You did it. You just changed my life with that phrase. If that is not what I'm observing, then I make this judgment at that very moment again, to maybe ease my own anxiety or make sense of the moment for me, that the person on the couch can not give two rips about the life-changing phrase that I've just shared. And that phrase is, “acceptance does not mean apathy”. And I feel like if I had sound effects that might go, maybe not as exciting as you think. But let me break that down a little bit today because we're going to talk about acceptance and willingness in a way that I think is going to help. It's going to help in a lot of ways, it's going to help with anxiety. It's going to help with fear. It's going to help when trying to take on something new. So why don't we start with, what does apathy even mean? And then I'm going to spend some time in the book by Dr. Steven Hayes, the founder of acceptance and commitment therapy, his book called “Get out of your mind and into your life”, which being completely honest for some insane reason, queues me to sing in my head each and every time the Billy Ocean classic from 1988, “get out of my dreams and into my car”, which I shared with someone in a session last night and she is in her twenties and she said, that was literally, that was really a song title? And it was 1988. The year I graduated high school again, Billy Ocean “get out of my dreams and into my car” which must be some sort of cue or trigger because that is the year that I graduated high school. So on that note too, I just hit pause. I came back and I did Google top songs of 1988 to see why wasn't another song stuck in my head, more iconically than this Billy Ocean song that I was never a fan of. 

And ironically, that is also the year of Rick Astley's hit “never going to give you up”. So, I guess in essence, you were just verbally Rick rolled. So back to apathy. Apathy by definition is a lack of interest or concern especially regarding matters of general importance or appeal. It's a feeling of indifference, lack of emotion or feeling impassiveness, it's not having a, want a feeling it's an absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement. Insensibility indifference. So when I give you that phrase, that acceptance does not mean apathy, that what I'm saying is that if we accept things, if we accept the fact that I am feeling anxious, if I accept the fact that I am afraid or scared, then that does not mean game over. So in this scenario where I was out on the run, I had to do some, some true acceptance of the fact that I was at that three and a half, four miles away from home. I was under dressed. I didn't have my beanie on, I have a giant bald head. I didn't have gloves on and my hands were feeling very numb and cold. 

I think I had a short sleeve shirt on and I was about to run headfirst into the wind for the next little while. So acceptance doesn't mean then at that point that I might as well give up because in a situation like that there really wasn't an option to give up, not to sound very dramatic, but I was a little bit off the beaten path. And there wasn't a, I couldn't just flag down a taxi or even know if attack, think I need to use Uber all the time now. But I didn't, I don't even think I probably had cell phone service where I was and I just had to accept the fact that this was going to be rough or difficult. Because that acceptance again, doesn't mean that I'm just throwing in the towel, and I think we fear so often that acceptance does absolutely mean apathy and this impassiveness, this hopelessness, this absolute suppression of passion or emotion or excitement. And this indifference. And let me, let me step back and we're going to talk about how that would still work, even in the context of that run. 

But when I first started using the phrase, this acceptance doesn't mean apathy phrase. It really was showing up in the context of helping people post-divorce. And I promise it really does require you the listener or a client in my office to stay really present here for a minute, because it's going to sound at first, I worry like the complete opposite of what I am intending a true paradox, which is going to be ironic because when we get into the book by Dr. Hayes, we are going to start talking about a paradox of just great proportion. So acceptance, acceptance, not meaning apathy in the context of helping someone post divorce. I remember the person that I was first talking to about this, and the concept that we were exploring was if you accept the fact that she was afraid that she was going to be alone for the rest of her life and be single. And I was really trying to understand this acceptance and willingness from acceptance and commitment therapy, because it can be such a powerful tool. But I think it's one that is so paradoxical that it feels, it feels like we are giving up. And then it shows that sometimes the, or oftentimes the thing that is going to help us the most will sound like the craziest thing we can think of. And I think that is so often because our brain is just so used to this pattern of stick behavior and the path of least resistance. That we are handing somebody this new tool and they are going to just say, okay, that is unknown and scary. So I'm going to double or triple down on the thing that I know in hopes that at some point something's going to change. 

And if you're like me, you've probably already thought now that the definition of insanity of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result now to give us, give ourselves a little bit of credit. We are doing the same thing over and over often, but then we are hoping that things like time or being in a different location will be just the catalyst, enough so that it will not continue to be the same thing over and over, but it typically does end up netting the same results. So again, in this context, acceptance doesn't mean apathy. When this person is so worried about, I may be alone for the rest of my life, acceptance needs to look like, okay. I need to accept the fact that I may be alone for the rest of my life. And that's the part where the record scratch hits. And I believe I made the joke in that very moment of saying that does not mean that we need to back up the chocolate fountain truck and you just put your head underneath it and just hit the go button and then just indulge and do nothing and lay flat on your back for the rest of your life. 

It's actually the opposite. So if you accept the fact that you may be alone and that does feel scary and we want to get rid of scary and we want to get rid of discomfort. So we want to just get rid of it, we want to push that away. But if we accept that fact, then what she and I started working on was now she isn't going to try to become the person that someone else wants her to be in hopes that she will then find someone that will love her or find someone that will, will be willing to be with her because she will not be true to herself. But if she accepts that fact acceptance, not meaning apathy. But with that acceptance that I may not find someone. And again, how scary does that sound to somebody that's post divorce. But then I am not trying to figure out what I need to do to find someone. I am starting to figure out what to do to be the very best version of me. And then as you start to then uncouple, this needs to find the right thing to do. You start to find the things you like to do, and as you start to do those things and you realize that, okay, if I was in a relationship before where I didn't feel like I could be myself, and I did feel controlled or I felt like I didn't have a voice or I wasn't seen. And so if I really wanted to explore things that were, I really enjoy, let's say creativity or art or painting or I don't know, knife skills in a cooking class. And if you are with a spouse who says, okay, well, what about me? What am I supposed to watch the kids while you go do that? Or, do you know how much money it's going to cost? If you want to just all of a sudden paint another room and not even explore what that would feel like to really go after the things that you want in life. 

Now, those are real concepts around kids and finances, but when those conversations are shut down immediately, then you start to feel less than, and you start to feel like you lose your sense of self and as a marriage therapist, which I am, I know that then those conversations are had so quickly to just shut down some sort of feeling typically with that person who's more, a little bit reactive or emotionally immature as a way for them to get rid of their own discomfort. And so if we were sitting in front of a good marriage therapist and they were saying, okay we're understanding that this is something you want to do. You want to learn how to paint or you want to paint these rooms and you find that that would really scratch that creative itch and really help you feel alive so that you're showing up better as a better mom, as a better spouse, as a better fill in the blank because it raises your emotional baseline, then that is something worth fighting for. And if the husband then recognizes, okay, I immediately reacted because I just, all I thought about were finances and I worry that I'm not being the provider I need to be. So that makes me feel bad. So I looked at that as a threat. 

So when we can calm both people's amygdalas down and then have a productive conversation, of course, using my four pillars of a connected conversation, then we can start to say, what would it look like if we may be tightened up something over here, or, but because I want my spouse to thrive, I want them to be able to be the very best version that they can be of themselves. Because that does not mean that once they learn how to paint all the rooms and they feel confident, they will leave me. As a matter of fact, it means they're going to show up better in the relationship. So again, acceptance does not mean apathy. If I accept the fact in that scenario, post divorce, that I may end up single for the rest of my life. Now I'm not even fighting, I'm not even saying, oh my gosh, that's so bad. And it's horrible. And what if it's like, okay, I'm gonna sit with that, that is uncomfortable and now I'm going to step into things I like to do. And now all of a sudden, if I am taking a culinary class and I'm thriving and I have so much curiosity, and now I'm really connecting with the other people in my class, again, and we'll get to this in the, in the book, but I can't be doing it so that I will then, well, maybe that's how I'll find someone, but the chances of you finding someone with the shared experience or and mutual passion or some of the, you can really just bounce ideas off and they won't necessarily feel attacked or criticized may come from this place where you are operating as your very best self. 

So acceptance does not mean apathy. Let's go to the book. And this is the book, “Get out of your mind and into your life” by Dr. Steven Hayes. And I'm jumping over into chapter four and it's called “letting go”. And this is one of the key chapters to, I think that will really, it really helps you start to understand the things that we are not doing correctly in the mental health field. So Dr. Hayes talks about in the first couple of chapters, he really talked about your suffering. And your efforts to cope with it, because if you really look at the fact that life, yeah, life can be a real challenge. It can be difficult. And I feel like at any given moment, we can all identify areas of our life, where we are suffering and then he talked about this trap or this pitfall that is inherent to human thought because of the way that we try to handle the suffering. And he talks about experiential avoidance. That we try to find anything else to do to alleviate the suffering. So we turned to these experiential avoidance activities, which means our phones or unhealthy coping mechanisms or just tuning out of life because we want to feel better. And we are chasing this concept of just pure, euphoric joy and happiness, because we don't want to feel uncomfortable. We don't want to acknowledge this suffering. 

But I think it's safe to say that that's one of our go-to responses to try to get rid of discomfort or suffering. Is to tune out, to use this experiential avoidance to just, just watch shows and play games and just not do and not be, not be present. So Dr. Hayes says we've hinted at an alternative to experiential avoidance. And he said it has been variously described as willingness. Acceptance or letting go. And I really want to clarify what acceptance and willingness looks like, because I think this will really help move you forward. And being more present in being more present will move you forward and figuring out what really matters to you. And Dr. Hayes says that acceptance is a skill that you may have heard about or experimented with in the past. And it's certainly something that you can learn to do, but he said, unfortunately, it's not something that your mind can do. Your mind is trying desperately not to accept uncomfortable situations or feelings. So he said, that's why learning more skills will be required before you can implement these concepts of acceptance and willingness in your daily life, because he says even after all your mind is aware of what you're reading right now. And in this area, your mind is not your ally. So welcome to the first paradox. If you're not willing to have it, you will, and he said that that is one of these rules that applies to the things that are going on internally or what they call in ACT, your private experiences. That if you aren't willing to have it, you will. And he said that we've implied that this rule is important for dealing with your suffering. 

Although he said he didn't really exactly express where that importance lies. So he said, let's take a look at what the mind does with such an idea. Again, that idea of, if you're not willing to have it, you will. So he said, suppose that the rule is true, that if you aren't willing to have it, you will. So given that you've already suffered a great deal, what can you logically do that would apply that rule to your suffering? So when I go back to my running example, I would rather not be cold. And I would rather not feel pain when running home of fatigue. I would rather not feel all of the difficulties of running into the wind when I'm tired and cold or in the situation of this person that was divorced, she does not want to suffer in feeling alone. So he says, if you're like most people, you begin thinking about how you might be willing to have these negative private experiences, if that meant that those negative experiences would begin to diminish or even disappear. He gives a really good example. So he says, for example, suppose that your anxiety, that anxiety is your main issue. And he says, you really hate how anxious you are and you just write a sentence that purports to be a rule to help you deal with your problem. And that sentence that we just read states that if you aren't willing to have it, you will. So, what would that mean for your anxiety? He said, what follows is the kind of speculation that the word machine that we call our mind does best. So your mind is going to say something like, hmm, okay. So if I'm not willing to be anxious, then I will be anxious. So, and I think we can, I think we can accept that. If I am worrying about my worry, that is going to worry me. But he said, I suppose that means if we’re more willing to be anxious, then I might not be so anxious. And I hate being anxious. So I guess I'll give it a try. I will try to be more willing to feel my anxiety. So that I won't be so anxious. You can see what we just did there with the mind dead. He said with that, the thought trap slams down around you. Because if you are willing to be anxious only in order to become less anxious, then you're not really willing to be anxious and you will become even more anxious. Now I know that there are a lot of different ages that listen to the podcast. I want to talk a little bit for a second about what this concept even looks like with regard to intimacy within a relationship, a marriage. 

I often have this conversation with couples where, and I'm just going to go some real gender stereotypes here, and I'm going to own that, so one of the common things I find is if a guy comes into my office with his wife and the guy wants to more intimacy, he says that will solve all the world's problems. So he says, well, I'm happy then I would love to, I would love to celebrate with us being intimate, or if I'm sad, there is no greater pick me up than being intimate. Or if there's a headache, I don't know why there hasn't been more research on a cure for headaches in intimacy. And so he says this as if this is just the, this is facts. And so he looks at me and then often says, okay, you know, you get it. I'm sure you're a sex therapist. Can you tell my wife? And then I look over and then I see her withdrawn. And then this is, this conversations happened so many times. Where then if I say, okay, what are you hearing? And she says, all right. I am hearing that I am in charge of his emotions. I'm in charge of managing his anxiety, his depression, his happiness and sadness. And so that makes her start to feel more like an object. So fast forward, we have a conversation about maybe changing the relationship with intimacy so that the wife will feel safe to be able to be more physically intimate without it necessarily leading to sexual intercourse. 

And often this is why I bring this story up because I get such a good example of this, where I will almost in this scenario, have a guy look over at me and say, oh, okay. So if I change my relationship with intimacy and I don't make it that I need her to manage my emotions, my anxiety. And he said, I get it almost like with a week of saying. And that'll lead to more intimacy. And it's the exact opposite. So if you change your relationship with intimacy and focus more on the connection or the relationship and know that not all roads have to lead to the intercourse, then you start to learn to be more accepting of the moments of being physically intimate without that quite frankly. And then if the guy says, oh, go okay. I got you. And now that you laid out that way. Yeah, I would love more of that, but then it will also lead to more, more intercourse to, is that what you're saying? No, this is that person's missing the point. So we go back to that again. So if I'm not willing to be anxious, I will be anxious. And I suppose that means if I were more willing to be anxious, I might not be so anxious and I don't like being anxious. So I guess I'll give it a try. I'll try to be more willing to feel my anxiety so that eventually I won't be as anxious. 

So that thought trap slams down around you, because if you're willing to only be anxious in order to become less anxious or if you're willing to then deal with a less physical intimacy so that you will then eventually get more physical intimacy, then you're not really willing to be anxious or you're not really willing to be less physically intimate. And that will cause you to become even more anxious or frustrated. And Dr. Hayes says, this is absolutely not psychobabble. He said, read the sentence again. Yes, they are paradoxical. But the paradox seems to be true. Those census demonstrate the merry-go-round ride that can result from trying to force the mind to do something it can't do. If the only reason you're willing to allow yourself to feel anxiety today, is that the hope that feeling it today will free you from it. From the necessity of feeling it in the future, then that's not going to work. Because what your willingness here really means is you just don't want to feel any anxiety. And you'll try to jump through all kinds of mental hoops, not to feel it. And he says that's not the same as being willing to feel your anxiety. And quite frankly, that can cause more anxiety. So I said, this is why we've said that the approaches that might help with the causes of your pain are difficult to learn. Not in the sense that they are effortful, but because they are tricky. And he says for that reason, we're going to put the concept of willingness on the table here. But we will deal with quite a bit of other material before returning to this topic, then try to apply it to the core areas of the things that you struggle with in your life. 

So I think this next part is so key. It says, if I'm saying you may not be listening up until now, but now really listen. But this is key acceptance and willingness. So, accept, he says, comes from the Latin root cut Perry, or I don't know my Latin, but meaning to take. Acceptance is the act of receiving or taking what is offered. But sometimes in English, accept means to tolerate or resign yourself as in, okay. I guess I have to accept that. And that's where I go with the acceptance does not mean apathy. Or just, tolerate a resign yourself to and that is so key to understand that we're not saying, okay, accept and just tolerate and resign yourself to. Dr. Hayes says that is precisely not what is meant here by accept, we mean something more like taking completely in the moment without defense. So, if we are saying, accept your anxiety, then we're saying that, take it in and be in that moment. And try not to push it away. Just be in the moment. When I am taking in or accepting that I was three and a half, whatever miles away from my house and it was cold and I had to run, then I took that moment and completely, and I truly did without defense, it was happening there. I was now in the very present moment. And in that moment now I could feel, I could honestly feel the wind on my skin. I could feel the wind up against the cold of my shirt that had sweat. I could notice my feet pounding the ground. I could feel the contractions of the muscles in my legs. And if that sounds like mumbo jumbo or psychobabble, I understand because years ago, I would have thought there is no way I'm going to be recording a podcast and I'm going to be talking about notice, notice your labored breath. Ah, isn't that beautiful. Feel the air sucking into your lungs at a rapid rate as your heart rate increases. And, but that is exactly the thing that to do to be in that moment. And what am I not doing? I'm not being angry or beating myself up or. Or feeling this just hopelessness. I'm taking in that very moment, taking completely in the moment without defense. 

So then Dr. Hayes says we use the word willing then as a synonym for accepting. So staying true to that meaning of accept, willing, he said is one of the older words in the English language, and it comes from an ancient root meaning to choose. So thus acceptance is to take it in completely in the moment. And willingness can be understood as then, and then choosing what you do with that. So it can be understood as an answer to this question. Will you take me in as I am? And that is whatever that is. Will you take me in as I am? Will you take it well, will I allow this in anxiety and just like it is because there it is. Or will I allow this moment where I am far away from home and I am cold. Will I just take it in for what it is? It is what it is. I am there. What do I do now? So you said acceptance and willingness are the opposite. The opposite of effortful control. So Dr. Hayes shares a little bit more. He said, what follows is a description of what to take me in as I am really means. He said in our context, the words willingness and acceptance mean to respond actively to your feelings by feeling them literally. Much as you might reach out and literally feel the texture of a cashmere sweater. They mean to respond actively to your thoughts by thinking them. Much as you might read poetry, just to get the flow of the words. Or an actor might rehearse lines to get a feel for the playwright's intent. To be willing and accepting. It means to respond actively to memories by remembering them. Much as you might take a friend to see a movie you've already seen. 

They mean to respond actively to bodily sensations by syncing them. Much as you might take an all over stretch in the morning, just to feel your body all over. That willingness and acceptance mean adopting a gentle, loving posture toward yourself, toward your history, your past, your programming, so that it becomes more likely for you simply to be aware of your own experience much as you would hold a fragile object in your hand and contemplate it closely and dispassionately, he says the goal of willingness is not to feel better. Because if we are continually just chasing the feel good feeling. Then we are going to just be turning from one dopamine, hit to the next, and we're going to be missing out on so many of life's experiences. Because those experiences can come with a lot of emotion. They can come with some negativity, they can come with discomfort. So we need to be willing to embrace those moments and that discomfort. And what I truly wish people could get a glimpse of is that as you start to embrace these moments and sit with the discomfort, it really turns out to not be as scary as you think it would be things like anxiety are there for a reason, they're there to warn you, but we worry about 99% of the things that will never happen. And we even convince ourselves that we're just preparing or we're just making sure, or we're just a, what if, what if, and we're avoiding and we don't, but when we start to recognize that we're also in that same process, missing out on a lot of life and figuring out who we are and what we have to offer, and when we can really change that interior landscape of your mind or what it feels like to be you based on this slow residue of lived experience and those lived experiences are far greater teachers than that experiential avoidance. 

Mike Rucker was on my podcast. He has that book, “The fun habit”. And he was talking about a concept that I think about so often where I feel like when you are in the moment and having these experiences, even the ups, the downs, all of those experiences, and you allow yourself to feel them, those become really part of what it feels like to be you. And he talked about all of the other things that you do. All of the TV shows you watch and the games you play and the, the time spent ruminating and worrying and wondering, and getting that crystal ball out and just all those things, fortune telling. That those all just get lumped into just this kind of bucket of gray and our memories. Just, you know, what did you do over the weekend? Oh, you know, just a regular weekend. Just kind of got through it, here I am, versus the, oh man. I went on a run and I didn't dress as well as I should have. And it was freezing cold, but I made it and I got the, you know, interacted with a couple of people. I saw it. I saw these, I know this animal that I'd never seen before. That sounds crazy. What like an aardvark running around Lincoln. But you were having these experiences. So what it feels like to be you as somebody who does and somebody who is participating in life and in that participation, you are going to start to connect with new things and opportunities and feel feelings and sights and smells and sounds. And that is going to help you grow in that internal landscape of what it feels like to be you is going to be one that is feeling pretty, pretty content, or even dare I say overall happy with life because you're taking more charge or control of your life. 

So again, the goal of willingness he says is not to feel better. It's to open yourself up to the vitality of the moment to move more effectively toward what you value. Dr. Hayes said in another way, the goal willingness is to feel all the feelings that come up for you more completely even, or especially the bad feelings. So you can live your life more completely in essence, instead of trying to feel better. Willingness involves learning how to feel, to feel like, feel the feelings, feel better. And to be willing and accepting is to gently push your fingers into, if you've ever seen the Chinese finger trap, in order to make more room for yourself to live in, rather than mainly struggling against your experience by trying to pull your fingers out of the trap. So to be willing and accepting means to give yourself enough room to breathe. And by assuming this stance of willingness and acceptance, now you couldn't, all of a sudden, he says open up all the blinds of the windows in your house and allow life to flow through. You start to let fresh air and light enter into what was previously closed and dark at a fear and worry. So to be willing and accepting means to be able to walk through, he says, the swamps of your difficult history. When the swamps are directly on the path that goes in a direction that you really care about. To be willing and accepting means noticing that you are the sky, not the clouds, the ocean, not the waves. He said, it means noticing that you're large enough to contain all of your experiences just as a sky can contain any cloud in the ocean, any wave. He said we don't expect this foray into poetic metaphors to make any difference yet. But the sense conveyed may give you an idea of what we're aiming for in pursuing the acceptance, the acceptance, and the book that he's talking about, or the acceptance just in life in general. 

So I would really encourage you as you go forward after listening to this podcast to just really take a look again at that willingness and acceptance. That will you take me in, that acceptance to take me in. It's not, it does not mean to tolerate or resign yourself to, but accepting we are taking that moment in completely without defense. And then that willingness, accepting, willing. Meaning to choose. So acceptance and willingness can be understood as an answer to this question. Will you take me in as I am, anxiety? And acceptance and willingness then, are the opposite of effortful control. And when you can be willing and accepting to your feelings and your experiences and you experience all of them, you feel them, you are willing to take them in, then you can just experience every bit of that moment and that is going to drive you more toward this just sense of vitality and purpose. I would go on and on, but I think you get the point. If you have questions, let me know. Share this with somebody if you think that that would really help. And if you are listening to this for the first time, welcome aboard. And send me questions if you have them, I'd love to do a podcast about them, answer them. You can send them to contact@tonyoverbay.com and taking us out per usual, the wonderful, the talented, Aurora Florence with her song, “It's wonderful”. We'll see you next week on the Virtual Couch

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